Pope Francis says he will not be buried in Vatican, has prepared a grave in Basilica of St. Mary Major

Pope Francis announced in a recent interview that he plans to be buried outside the Vatican. 

The pontiff told Mexican broadcaster Televisa’s N+ news service that he has made arrangements to be buried in the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome. 

“The place is already prepared,” Pope Francis told the outlet, saying that the basilica where he prays regularly before foreign trips is his “great devotion.”

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While the pope says he is recovering from his bout with severe bronchitis, he notes that his capabilities are declining with old age.

“It is true that all journeys are now rethought,” Pope Francis told the outlet regarding overseas trips. “If they’re close by, they can be done. If they’re farther away, they are rethought. There are limits.”

He has no plans to retire like his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, reiterating his belief that the papacy is intended to be a position held until death — but says he waits for God to decide when his reign should end.

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“I ask the Lord to say ‘enough,’ at some point, but when he wants me to,” Pope Francis said.

Pontiffs do not have a requirement for burial location — but since the death of St. Pope Pius X in 1914, all popes have been buried in the grotto under St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.

For centuries, St. Peter’s Basilica has been the most common choice for the internment of deceased popes, but many pontiffs have chosen churches or catacombs with which they have a more personal connection.

The Basilica of St. Mary Major has been a spiritual home for Pope Francis since the beginning of his pontificate.

He has stopped at the Basilica before and after most major apostolic journeys, as well as after each stint in the hospital.

The basilica, which dates back sixteen centuries, features the Salus Populi Romani — an ancient icon of the Virgin Mary and infant Jesus believed to be from the 6th century.

Seven popes are currently buried in the basilica.

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